PHNOM PENH: Cambodia’s ruling party rolled out in force on Friday (Jul 27), turning the capital to white and blue in a final rally before the country goes to the polls on Sunday.
Organisers said about 250,000 supporters of the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) were forecast to hit the streets, after a steeled speech full of strong rhetoric from Prime Minister Hun Sen.
READ: Cambodia's Hun Sen hails 'elimination' of opposition at mass rally
What followed was a victory parade of sorts, before the victory.
Hun Sen - the leader of the country since 1985 - was at the head of a procession, colourful and noisy in typical Cambodian style.
He waved to the crowds, smiling in the knowledge that this is an election he cannot lose.
The CPP is all but assured of an overwhelming victory in the absence of the country’s main opposition.
Despite the one sided affair, the CPP has taken no chances with this election as it looks to not only consolidate power but cast an image of a rule legitimised by the democratic process.
Government promises before the vote have been widely populist in nature, promising more benefits for civil servants, members of the military and the influential garment worker bloc.
In reality, the pursuit of power in the last five years has come at the expense of independent media, human rights activism and freedom of speech, all of which have been restricted and degraded by the government.
Hun Sen has promised to rule for at least another 10 years, which would take his reign to more than four decades.
In his speech to the crowds he again heavily focused on how he has kept Cambodia at peace, drawing on comparisons to the times of Khmer Rouge control.
“We stood up and turned blood and tears into development,” he said. “No peace, no development. Voting for the CPP will guarantee the peace.
“I will not allow this country to fall into bloodshed like the past.
"Anyone who goes to vote is supporting democracy. Anyone who does not, intentionally, is destroying it."
In reference to the CNRP opposition, he said: “If we didn't eliminate them with an iron fist, maybe by now Cambodia would be in a situation of war.”
He also touched on his usual messages of prosperity for the people.
That stands in contrast to social realities in the country. Cambodia is deeply divided politically and has some of the highest rates of poverty in the region.
Critics have said that Cambodia is declining towards a dictatorship.
The United States announced this week further sanctions against Cambodian individuals, namely Hun Sen’s inner circle, due to “anti-democratic” activities.
But the election process will rule this out on Sunday and turnout, rather than the result itself, could be more illuminating of voter sentiment.
It remains unclear whether in a climate of intimidation, ordinary Cambodians will show up to rubber stamp their government’s next term or protest through abstention.